Strike A Pose: voguing with the House of Suarez

Meet the founder of one of Britain's few voguing dance houses.

Video transcript

DARREN SUAREZ: Hi. My name is Darren Suarez. I am the housemother/father of the House of Suarez. Vogue is a dance style that was created in the US.

It is associated to Black and Latino gay men and it started roughly around early '80s. I came out one night and there was a group of people in the corner of the club. And then whenever a certain track came on, they'd just burst into these moves that didn't make sense to me. But they look incredible.

They look like you couldn't do them. Everyone in the club would stop and watch. It was just mesmerizing.

It seemed so beautiful and elegant and strong. For me, that blew me away, so I really fell in love with it. I wasn't a dancer but I just fell in love with something. And it didn't feel like you need to be a dancer to learn it.

It was more about the poise and about their presence in the space. So this is Ryan. Ryan is one of my principal dancers in the house. And he's just going to demonstrate a couple of the styles that we use within our house and how we create choreography.

So obviously, we've got a new way, which is all about lines and boxers. Very strong, very open, and the shoulders. Strong lines playing round with different variations and then rewinding or reversing some of the material.

Very Egyptian quite two dimensional in hieroglyphics. Then we have hand performance. Which is round, which is given the illusion that the hands are not really attached. And then we've got like goes around the body. So we can go around.

Around the face. Everything's about framing the face, giving it a kind of structure and a poise within the space. My name is Suarez. So I am the father of the House of Suarez or the mother if I want to get things done because the mother gets things done around the place.

If we go back to the history of it, the reason they were called houses was because back in America when the worst case scenario would to be Black and gay or Latino and gay, in society you were shunned, your parents disowned you. So a lot of these kids would turn to drugs, prostitution, or even worse probably get murdered.

It was such a narrative story that the older generation which sometimes would usually be drag Queens started looking at this and what could they do to turn this around because they were left by themselves. They decided to take over like small spaces, create like balls or pageants and these pageants would have categories that weren't so technically demanding, gave a platform for people to express themselves or to live an alter ego. And as these balls starts to evolve and become more popular, or became more dance driven, people got more money so more budget for costumes.

And then the drag Queens would see these kids take a handful of them. And maybe into their home and they would live within the house, hence why it would be the house. They would adopt the house mother's name.

When these kids were off the streets, they were able to get their heads together maybe find opportunities of work and employment. Learned life skills, learn how to grow up learn how to turn into an adult under the direction of their mother or their father at the house.

So when the kids started earning money, they pay into the house. So it was literally a new family and that's where it came from. As it's evolved, I don't have all my dancers living with me. They have their own boat, but what happens is I'm here for counsel for them. If they got issues that are outside, what we do is work or what we do is performance.

I hope and I feel that I've supported my daughters as they've grown into themselves. It's actually amazing to feel that you've got the trust of these people who are in your house but you still have to throw discipline and make sure that you're still pulling the house together, keeping its focus, being its voice.

I take my role very serious. I always try to make myself available to my daughters. I also get a lot of reward back from them because I also get, I get a lot of love back, I get a lot of support.

There's quite a lot of stuff online now and on television. You've obviously got "Pose", which is a nice rose colored version of what "Paris" has been, which is another documentary from 1990. It's really important to watch. We've got "How Do I Look," which is 10 years on of the ball culture that goes on in America in the US. You've got "RuPaul's Drag Race," which again taps into some of the vocabulary of it.

YouTube and TikTok and everything has gone crazy when it comes to vogue, and so even if you just wanted to put vogue houses in, you would come up with an array of different people.

Obviously, you could look into House of Suarez and look about what our statement is and what our mission statement is, but there's a globe there's a whole world of houses that have all got a different throughline of how they connect to their community. Everything is accessible now, especially with online.

We do have a laugh I do have to slam a little bit when they start going a little bit too much. As soon as I raise my voice once, they get it together and they create magic. Yeah, I'm very proud. I think they're proud to be part of it as well.

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